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PEOPLEText: Nicolas Roope

Considering I see Underworld more often than I see my Mum, I know precious little about them other than the obvious.A year off after their seminal success with Born Slippy and Second Toughestin the Infants, they are once again back in the studio after a long period of “De-tox.”

Dance music; speed garage through to gabba, hasn’t ever appeared to try to “mean,” anything in the way that is essential to the Indie tradition, yet Underworld hold an attitude which may be strong and coherent enough to consider a philosophy. Whilst artists like Photek are adamant about their music’s departure from dance floor oriented dance music, implying an elevation in status and value, Underworld maintain a respect for their groove driven roots. This respect for the dance floor, has enabled them to produced what have become timeless dance classics as well as an audio visual legacy which will probably outlive most of the other players in the NOW driven dance scene.

I walked up one flight of stairs, and when I’d caught my breath, found Karl Hyde flicking through some photographs which he was ordering in some kind of manner. I could tell by the milky glaze in his eyes that I was in for a rather reflective and contemplative discussion.

You were looking at some visual material when I found you, was it anything to do with the album?

No that’s nothing to do with the album, If I don’t do it (order all the other things that need ordering) soon, it’s just going to get out of hand. There’s another Tomato book on the way and two exhibitions. One is in Rotterdam in May, one is an exhibition on a series of billboards in Dusseldorf in Germany. There’s just enough billboards for one each of Tomato to have one which is kind of curious. There’s a few things like that, that have just appeared at exactly the same time as we’re preparing the album and preparing to go out live. On top of that we’re collecting the bits and pieces that we’re taking on tour, the fragments that help us improvise. It’s all going off all at once, unlike say three weeks ago when there were all these bits and pieces that were up in the ether.

you don’t seem to have a very rigid approach to constructing the music, could you tell me about some of the processes you have been involved with in making the album?

We take it loose. We play games, we play a lot of games. A couple of pieces that are going into the mix were (derived) from the system that we used for the exhibition that Tomato did in Shiseido, taking the idea of sound pieces for installation, so elements of the track would be separate and could work in their own right. The text, music, the chords, the rhythm, whatever, you know, could exist completely in their own right so that in the case of an installation you could have them appearing as separate elements and they should work; so that was one of the games that we played. The soundscapes we did in Shiseido as well as the show we did at the design museum in Munich were based along those lines and so we thought we’d try that for a way of writing tracks [for the album].

Have you written vocals for the album?

We’re reducing the idea of vocals to text now. Sometimes its machines talking or sometimes it’s, well, like as I’m going through a process in the next few weeks of getting people to record my text so that we can put it on to disc and play it live, you know, cut it up, sample it, whatever. We’ve always used that (method) right the way back to the skyscraper; Petra, a friend of ours spoke on that and Reiko, Simon’s (from Tomato) wife has done quite a few things and; we’re just really in to voices; I mean , just because I wrote the text it doesn’t mean I have to perform it. For me, one of the great discoveries of the Shiseido exhibition was I wrote all the text but my voice wasn’t on it at all and it was so satisfying to have all theses other voices narrating; that was very liberating.

The words that you use seem to be concerned with texture and sound, they don’t respect a traditional narrative, you know the “I loved you from afar and then we got it together and were very happy until you run away with a
handsome soldier…” type of song.

They’re more impressions really, they’re fragments. I always saw it as the way that a drunk would see the city, walking through the streets. That seemed to be the key to a lot of the ways that we put text together; it’s just these fragments that you’re taking, you’re picking up on all the time and I think that’s the way we all do it anyway, that when we walk down the street, it’s made up of fragments that tell us we’re in a particular place.

It does seem that we’re all obsessed with always making stories.

Yeh, that’s right, they’re a very premature man made thing and erm, I’m just not very good at it and it’s time to own up and get real.

You seem to be talking about a lot of other things than the album, how does the album fit in with all these activities?

For us an album is a record of a moment in time, or a culmination of moments in time that have a definitive conclusion; and then it’s a bit like a bottleneck how it then comes out and widens out and gets deconstructed and built on and developed; it changes form almost completely and becomes something else. So in terms of performance and installation, the CD-Roms we’ve been working on together with antirom; the band has a lot of ways of appearing.

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Minna Parikka